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Coyote crossings: the role of smugglers in illegal immigration and border enforcement

  • Mark G. Guzman
  • Joseph H. Haslag
  • Pia M. Orrenius

Illegal immigration and border enforcement in the United States have increased concomitantly for over thirty years. One interpretation is that U.S. border policies have been ineffective. We offer an alternative view, extending the current immigration-enforcement literature by incorporating both the practice of people smuggling and a role for non-wage income into a two-country, dynamic general equilibrium model. We state conditions under which two steady state equilibria exist: one with a low level of capital, but relatively little migration. We then analyze two shocks: a positive technology shock to smuggling services and an increase in border enforcement. In the low-capital steady state, the capital-labor ratio declines with technological progress in smuggling, while illegal immigration increases. In the high-capital steady state, a technology shock causes the capital-labor ratio to rise while the effect on migration is indeterminate. We show that an increase in border enforcement is qualitatively equivalent to a negative technology shock to smuggling. Finally, we show that a developed country would never choose small levels of border enforcement over an open border. Moreover, a high level of border enforcement is optimal only if it significantly decreases capital accumulation. In addition, we provide conditions under which an increase in smuggler technology will lead to a decline in the optimal level of enforcement.

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Paper provided by Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas in its series Working Papers with number 0201.

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Date of creation: 2002
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Handle: RePEc:fip:feddwp:0201
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  1. Jim Dolmas & Gregory W. Huffman, 2004. "On The Political Economy Of Immigration And Income Redistribution," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 45(4), pages 1129-1168, November.
  2. Rachel M. Friedberg & J. Hunt, 1995. "The Impact of Immigrants on Host Country Wages, Employment and Growth," Working Papers 95-5, Brown University, Department of Economics.
  3. Ethier, Wilfred J, 1986. "Illegal Immigration: The Host-Country Problem," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(1), pages 56-71, March.
  4. Hanson, G.H. & Robertson, R. & Spilimbergo, A., 1999. "Does Border Enforcement Protect U.S. Workers from Illegal Immigration?," Working Papers 438, Research Seminar in International Economics, University of Michigan.
  5. Segerstrom, P.S., 1990. "Innovation, Imitation And Economic Growth," Papers 8818, Michigan State - Econometrics and Economic Theory.
  6. Borjas, George J, 1987. "Self-Selection and the Earnings of Immigrants," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(4), pages 531-53, September.
  7. Valerie R. Bencivenga & Bruce D. Smith, 1995. "Unemployment, migration, and growth," Working Papers 561, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
  8. Bond, Eric W. & Chen, Tain-Jy, 1987. "The welfare effects of illegal immigration," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 23(3-4), pages 315-328, November.
  9. Lundborg, Per & Segerstrom, Paul S., 2002. "The growth and welfare effects of international mass migration," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 56(1), pages 177-204, January.
  10. Harris, John R & Todaro, Michael P, 1970. "Migration, Unemployment & Development: A Two-Sector Analysis," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 60(1), pages 126-42, March.
  11. James R. Markusen & Stephen Zahniser, 1997. "Liberalization and Incentives for Labor Migration: Theory with Applications to NAFTA," NBER Working Papers 6232, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. George J. Borjas, 1994. "The Economics of Immigration," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 32(4), pages 1667-1717, December.
  13. James F. Dolmas & Gregory W. Huffman, 2000. "The dynamics of immigration policy with wealth-heterogeneous immigrants," Working Papers 0006, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.
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